Poster design by Julia Mellen.
The Country of the Blind
By Frank Higgins
Adapted from the short story by H.G. Wells
Directed by Julane Havens
Review by Rachel White
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Rachel White. All rights reserved.
A one eyed boy, Eduardo (Will DeVary), unable to compete in his home town, finds himself in the mythic country of the blind. In this place, Eduardo sews ambitions that he may one day be king. He doesn’t count on the fact that the people who live in this country, though blind, have special abilities of their own.
The concept of this story, an entire town of eyeless people, whose culture is based around the fact that they are eyeless is visually and theatrically compelling. The play is based on the H.G. Wells short story, and was adapted by Frank Higgins. The play has imaginatively restaged for Walden by Julane Havens.
Havens makes creative use of the space, to create a world of mountains and open spaces, a varied landscape, where characters sometimes have to climb or walk for long distances. Her team of actors and designers are extremely successful at this, creating an epic feel through physical movement and use of various levels in the small black box theater. There is a nice Greek feel to performances that let the audience in on a unique and strange new world.
Flesh colored bands indicate the characters’ lack of eyes in a surprisingly effective way. The actors change physically to the sensation of blindness. It’s a competent blindness though, as these people are comfortable in their own world and the actors strike a believable balance. It’s a little unsettling from an audience perspective as in certain light the actors actually look as though they have no eyes. It is interesting to watch the physical behavior of the blind characters in contrast Eduardo, who can see but is somehow lost in this strange place.
Although I enjoyed the epic feel of the piece, there are times when the dialogue and performances started to feel too presentational, and I wished for a little more naturalism so that I could connect with the story on a more emotional level. This was particularly true during the scenes with the blind characters, whose behavior began to feel oddly cultish after a while. I don’t get the sense that this was the intention of the original story. This might be an issue in the writing as much as the acting and overall style of the work, which can be extremely poignant at many points and self-conscious at others.
Will Devry keeps up the momentum of the play, and has the right intensity for Eduardo. He is believable as an underdog who dreams of power as his thin frame belies his darker ambitions.
There are many nice touches and ideas in this play. At one point Eduardo asks Medina (Emma Price), his love interest, how she knows he is nearby. She replies that she can hear his “heart beat”. In another scene, Eduardo tries to explain sight to Medina and fails, realizing the limitations of language to describe something as incredible as sight.
The Country of the Blind
February 27-March 8, 2014
Nancy Niles Sexton Stage at Walden Theatre
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40206